Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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"My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways."
The first Naval officer killed in the Iraq war in 2003 was twenty-seven year old Lt. Thomas Adams. He was one of seven who died when his Sea King helicopter collided with another aircraft over the Persian Gulf. Lt. Adams was serving as a liaison officer with the British Royal Navy at the time. In serving his county Thomas Adams was following a long family tradition. He was a descendant of President John Adams, and many other members of his family had served the nation from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to modern times.
Adams’ legacy is a wonderful example of the legacy we can leave for the future by the way we live our lives in the present. President John Adams believed in the United States and devoted his life to helping form and build the new nation. His children and grandchildren followed in his footsteps because of the example that he set for them. By observing his ways the course of their lives was set—in a pattern that has lasted for generations.
Part of God’s plan for His people is that each generation sets an example for the next to follow. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Each day we should be aware that there are others watching us, especially in our family and in our church family. They see how we respond to success and victory, and how we respond to difficulty and defeat. They watch our actions to see if they match with our words. They observe our behavior at home to see if it matches our conduct in public. While none of us are perfect, we should strive to continually set a godly example for those who come after us to follow.
Live in such a way that as your children and grandchildren follow your example, their lives will bring honor and glory to God.
"Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them."
One of the largest freshwater turtles is the alligator snapping turtle. Found primarily in the southeastern United States, these massive turtles have been known to weigh as much as 250 pounds. They are carnivorous, and while their diet is primarily fish, they have been known to eat almost anything else they can find in the water—even in a few cases small alligators! Though they are very large, the force of their jaws is not greater than that of other turtles. Instead of force, the alligator snapping turtle relies on a uniquely deceitful method of foraging for fish.
The turtle will lie completely still on the floor of a lake or river with its mouth wide open. At the end of the turtle’s tongue is a small, pink, worm-shaped appendage. The turtle wiggles the end of its tongue so that it looks like a worm moving through the water. When a fish comes to eat the worm, the turtle’s jaws rapidly close, trapping the fish so that it cannot escape.
Similarly to the snapping turtle’s lure, temptation comes in the guise of something desirable, but it always carries destruction with it in the end. If we could see the end result rather than the tempting part, it would be far easier to resist. But Satan knows this, so he cleverly disguises what is deadly in the guise of something pleasurable. If the devil came to us in a red suit with a pitchfork and forked tail we would not be tempted. Instead as Paul wrote, “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Recognizing that our enemy is a master of disguise, both for himself and in his temptations, we need to always be on guard to protect our purity.
When sin seems most alluring, remember the certainty of death that follows at the end of the path of sin.
"(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows."
In addition to his long career as a political leader, including several years spent as Secretary of State and candidate for President, William Jennings Bryan often filled pulpits as a preacher. His powerful rhetoric opened the Word of God and challenged men and women to repent. In one memorable illustration, he told of a man from his hometown of Salem, Illinois, who once had been a drunkard. The man was convicted of the error of his ways, and signed a temperance pledge to stop drinking. But as Bryan told the story, each time he went into town, he continued to tie his horse up at the hitching post in front of the tavern where he used to drink. It wasn’t long before he was back inside with his old friends, drinking once again.
The devil for centuries has been convincing people that they are different—that they can get close to the edge with temptation without going over. He delights when Christians believe that they are strong enough to resist continual exposure to temptation without giving in. He knows he is close to triumph when we forget Paul’s admonition, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
The devil doesn’t play fair. He doesn’t care what he has to use to lure us to sin. Anything—even good things—can become tools in his hands. We need to walk through the world with our guard up and our eyes fixed on Jesus. Only then can we triumph over temptation and win the victory.
Satan is a master of deceit. Only by clinging to the truth can we hope to overcome his deception.
"I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon."
In September of 2006 the United Nations General Assembly was the scene of a geopolitical confrontation. President George W. Bush addressed the body on Tuesday. The next day, one of his most ardent foes, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, took the microphone to decry the US leader. “The devil came here yesterday,” Chavez said, referring to Bush, “And it smells of sulfur still today.” Of course neither the American president nor the Venezuelan leader is actually the devilbut the devil is very real nonetheless.
The idea that the devil would appear smelling of sulfur is ancient folklore, apparently because of Scripture’s description of brimstone being part of the punishment of Hell. But in truth, when Satan and his minions come to tempt us, they bring a very different smell. If they actually showed up stinking of evil, we would be on guard and more likely to resist temptation. Instead they come to us with the sweet smells of perfume, designed to lull us into complacency so we will be more likely to yield to the enticements placed before us.
Paul warned the church at Corinth that Satan was able to appear as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Like a skilled fisherman, he knows exactly how to get us to pay attention to the lure rather than the hook. The stench of sin comes to us well disguised, in hopes that we will lose sight of the end result. Every temptation is based on the immediate momentmaking the pleasure that is offered all we consider. Yet when we see beauty and sweetness on display, we should remember to look behind the curtain. We may not be able to smell the sulfur, but it is there.
Do not allow the sweet smell of temptation to lure you into doing wrong.
"The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?"
Viktor Frankl was a prominent Jewish psychologist in Vienna during the 1930s. During the Holocaust, he and virtually all of his family members were rounded up and placed in concentration camps. One by one they perished at the hands of the Nazis. By the time the American army liberated the camp Frankl was in, the only surviving member of his family was a sister who had fled to Australia before the war started.
After the war, Frankl wrote a book about his experiences called Man’s Search for Meaning. He detailed the suffering he endured, but he also noted the vital importance of attitude and outlook to whether a person survived that awful experience. Though Frankl was not a believer, he had hit upon an important truth found in Scripture. The spirit of man—our inward thoughts and emotions—plays a vital role in our success or failure in life.
Certainly Daniel had a great deal about which he could have complained. His nation had been conquered, and he had been carried far from home and placed in a training program designed to destroy his allegiance to God. Rather than allow his circumstances to dictate his outlook, he kept his spirit right. On the night the handwriting appeared on the wall in Belshazzar’s palace, the queen described Daniel this way: “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding… were found in the same Daniel” (Daniel 5:12).
We do not have to let what is going on around us dictate our inward thoughts and attitude. Paul wrote, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). As believers we have access to a source of strength and power that will allow our spirit to overcome injury and trouble.
Guard your spirit well—keep it in submission to the Holy Spirit, and life will not overcome you.
"Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:"
The patience and longsuffering of God is so beautifully illustrated in the story of Noah and the ark. When God determined to judge the world with a great flood because of the wickedness of man, He would have been fully justified to do so immediately. Yet instead, He allowed more than one hundred years to pass, during which time Noah proclaimed the coming judgment to those around him. The Bible says, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
Although God kept the opportunity open for decades, one day time ran out. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they have plenty of time to make things right with God. Someone said, “The problem is that people who rely on a midnight conversion may die at 10:30.” None of us know when we will reach the point when God will say “Enough,” and the door of repentance will be closed forever. But we do know that if we continue to reject His call, one day a deadline will be reached. Paul wrote, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
What is true of the lost is true of Christians as well. Just because we are not immediately judged when we sin, we may fall into Satan’s snare of thinking that God does not see or care. But just as with the lost, there comes a day when a Christian who refuses to confess and walk in the light finds that the door is closed and the opportunity to repent is gone.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that you have plenty of time to repent—do it immediately.
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLII in February of 2008, the New England Patriots were riding an impressive winning streak. They hadn’t lost a game all season, and one more win would make them only the second undefeated team in NFL history. They were heavily favored to defeat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, and team officials made plans to capitalize on the expected victory. Steps were taken to trademark the phrase 19-0, and hats and shirts with that commemoration of a perfect season were printed up ahead of time. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Giants were not interested in rolling over and playing dead. They fought for every yard and point, and when the game was over the Giants had pulled off a shocking 17-14 upset victory.
The natural sinful tendency is for us to feel overconfident pride for our accomplishments and achievements. Yet, in truth, though we can and should work hard, all that we do is the result of what God has given us. Paul reminded the church at Corinth that all of their success was due to God’s grace and not their own ability. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
There is no place for pride in God’s plan for our lives. In fact when we are proud, we position ourselves for judgment. The only true and lasting form of glory is that which God gives to those who banish pride. Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Exalting ourselves in what we have done sets us up for a great fall.
Banish pride from your heart and mind so that you can receive God’s promotion and honor.
"The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts."
There are a lot of metals that on the surface look similar to gold. Centuries ago, people discovered that unscrupulous operators would take advantage of this to trick people into paying for worthless metal. In order to determine whether gold was genuine or not, scientists devised an “acid test.” The item that is supposed to be gold is rubbed on a black stone, leaving a mark behind. Gold is what is called a noble metal, meaning that it is resistant to the corrosive effects of acid. If the mark is washed away by the acid, then the metal is not real gold. If it remains unchanged, the genuine nature of the gold is proven.
It is not always immediately apparent from the outside whether someone is a genuine believer doing work for God out of good motives or not. Some are tares among the wheat while others are doing the right things but for selfish motives. It is only when faith and works are put to the test that it will become clear. Not all of these tests will turn out as people expect. Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Those who are believers will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ where their labor will be tested. Those who have put their trust in Christ can never lose the eternal life Christ promised, but our labor for the Lord will be tried. Paul wrote, “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13). Only that which has been done with pure motives and for the glory of God will survive that judgment.
Make sure that your faith and your works will stand up to the "acid test."
"A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent."
Richard Cecil was a greatly used pastor in England in the late 1700s. He was closely connected with John Newton and Wilber Wilberforce in their efforts to end the slave trade. The spirit that kept him faithful to God through a long life of service was demonstrated when he was just a boy. Richard’s father who worked for the British East India Company one day took the boy into the city with him. He told Richard to wait at a certain gate until he returned. In the busyness of his day, he forgot the boy and returned home alone. He said, “Dear me! I left him in the morning standing under such and such a gateway, and I told him to stay there till I came for him. I should not wonder but that he is there now.” He did, in fact, find Richard Cecil at the very spot where he was told to wait.
We live in an impatient world, yet God expects us to be faithful even if results are not immediately apparent. Faithfulness is not a nice accessory to the Christian life—it is an absolute essential. Paul wrote, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). The reason faithfulness matters so much is that despite what some prominent television preachers like to proclaim, God did not promise us an easy life where everything goes the way we want it to go.
Instead God expects us to trust and follow Him just as much in the dark as we do in the light. When things go well we sometimes say that God has been good to us, but the truth is that God is good all the time. Faithfulness in His love allows us to remain consistent through the ups and downs of life.
When we faithfully serve God and patiently trust Him, our lives will be filled with His blessings.
"Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.""
Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, man has needed a Saviour. None of us are able to save ourselves, because we have a sin nature and are incapable of fulfilling God’s righteous demands. For us to be saved, there had to be a sinless sacrifice—and that is why there is a Christmas. Jesus came to be the righteous Saviour that we needed. He lived a sinless life, completely fulfilling the law of God. His righteousness is placed on our account to pay for our sin. Paul wrote, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It was imperative that Jesus live a sinless life so He could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. If His life had not been perfect, He would have had to pay for His own sin. We see this illustrated at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He made the trip from Nazareth to the Jordan River where John the Baptist was baptizing people and asked John to baptize Him. John objected, pointing out that he should be baptized by Jesus instead. But because baptism was part of God’s plan, Jesus insisted. “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Matthew 3:15).
One of the greatest grounds for rejoicing as believers is the knowledge that God sees us as righteous because the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been applied to our record. As you celebrate this Christmas, give thanks to God for the provision of a righteous Saviour.
Rejoice today in the righteous Saviour who in love and mercy came into the world to offer us reconciliation to God.
"I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly."
For almost seventy years, Franz Joseph I ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the most powerful in the world. He was feared, honored, and greatly respected. But in the end, he was a man, and, like all other men, he died. A unique part of his funeral service illustrates the sinfulness of men and our need for a Saviour.
Like his ancestors of the Hapsburg dynasty, Franz Joseph I’s body was taken to the Church of the Capuchin in Vienna. When the funeral procession arrived at the doors they were closed. When they knocked on the door a voice from inside called out, “Who is there?” The leader of the funeral party answered, “His most serene majesty, the Emperor Franz Joseph I.” From inside the church the answer came, “I know him not. Who is there?” The next reply was, “The Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary.” Again the words came, “I know him not. Who is there?” This time the answer was different. “A sinful man. Our brother Franz Joseph.” Then the door opened, and the funeral proceeded.
When the enemies of Jesus wanted to condemn Him, they referred to Him as “a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Instead of an insult, that was actually a wonderful description of the life and ministry of Jesus. He was perfect and sinless, yet He left the perfection of Heaven for a sinful world—He walked among sinners and loved them. Even more He went to the cross where God “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christmas is not just a wonderful time of celebration and gift giving, but a remembrance of the provision of salvation.
Jesus came to be a Saviour, not for the good and lovely, but for the sinful and defiled.
"In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death."
The brilliant poet William Cullen Bryant was just seventeen years old when he wrote what many consider to be one of the greatest poems in all of American literature—Thanatopsis. Many people doubted his authorship because of his youth. Though this poem, a meditation on death and the grave, is beautiful and well-written, it is filled with a sense of melancholy and futility. Bryant wrote: “Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again. And lost each human trace, surrendering up Thine individual being, shalt thou go To mix forever with the elements; To be a brother to the insensible rock.”
There is so much more than that to life, death, and what comes after. There is an eternity that is to come and each person will spend it in Heaven or in Hell. Apart from salvation, man has no hope for eternity. Each of us is born under the power of sin and subject to the penalty of death. Only in Christ can we find a Saviour who has already triumphed over death. John wrote of Jesus, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3–4).
Life is part of the very nature of Christ. Not even death and the grave could hold Him in bondage. Once He had overcome death, there was nothing more to fear. Although each of us will face death (unless Christ returns first), we will face only a defeated foe. With Paul we can victoriously cry, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). This is one of the glories of Christmas.
We have confident hope for the future because of our Saviour who conquered death and rose again.
"There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches."
In January of 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries gave their lives in Ecuador in their effort to reach the Waodani (Auca) Indians. This fierce group was known to attack any outsiders, but the vision for reaching them with the gospel compelled these young men to take the risk. Not long after they set up camp near the Waodani village they were attacked by warriors. Refusing to defend their lives with force, the missionaries were killed. The news flashed around the world, and the story of courage and sacrifice challenged many to take up the missionary cause. Even today Elliot’s words live on: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
In a very real sense, Jim Elliot and his missionary friends were living the spirit of Christmas. They were willing to give up the comforts of home and promising careers and to ultimately lay down their lives to take the gospel to those who had never heard. They could have fought back to defend themselves, but they chose not to.
This is what Jesus did for us in coming to Earth. Paul wrote, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Nothing of lasting significance and importance for God is ever accomplished without great sacrifice. Whether it is our time, our talent, our treasure, or even our lives, we must be willing to give up what is temporary for the sake of what is eternal. When we do, we are following the example and pattern of Christ and walking in His steps.
As we rejoice in the riches that were purchased for us by Christ’s blood, we should share the good news with everyone we can.
"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him."
Samuel Morse was born into a preacher’s home in New England just two years after George Washington was elected the first president of the United States. Early in his life he demonstrated two traits—a deep love for God and great skill as a painter. After finishing his education at Yale, he went to England to hone his painting skill. Upon his return to America he was recognized as a gifted artist and was soon in much demand. Morse’s first wife died while he was away from home painting in Washington, D.C. He did not receive the news until it was too late. In his heartbreak he turned away from painting and began trying to develop a means of rapid communication over great distances. This eventually led to his discovery of the telegraph.
Despite his fame and the many honors that came his way, Morse wasn’t proud or boastful. In a letter to his second wife he wrote, “The more I contemplate this great undertaking, the more I feel my own littleness, and the more I perceive the hand of God in it, and how He has assigned to various persons their duties, He being the great controller, all others His honored instruments. Hence our dependence first of all on God, then on each other.”
When we walk in pride and are conceited regarding our talents and accomplishments, we are demonstrating that we do not understand or appreciate the role that God holds in everything we do. None of us are able to succeed in our own strength or wisdom; we should always remember it is God that makes what we do possible. As Paul put it “what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Pride separates us from the blessings and grace of God, and it is an expression of deep foolishness.
"Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings as eagles; They shall run, and not be weary; And they shall walk, and not faint."
Over the years as I have traveled across the country I have had the opportunity to visit some of the truly great churches of the past. These were churches that were once great lighthouses—places where many were saved, where believers grew in grace, and where deep roots of faith were established. Yet sadly it is often the case that the buildings are only a shell of what was once a vibrant assembly of Christians. Some of these great auditoriums are no longer churches at all, while others have been taken over by false teachers who deny the truths that once thundered from those pulpits.
What causes these tragedies? What makes churches or individual Christians stop walking with God and turn aside after other things? What leads to the failure to finish strong? While there are many causes, one of the most common is that people and organizations fail to be renewed. As a result their strength wanes, and then they collapse. The reality is that we are constantly facing threats and challenges that are beyond what we can meet in our own strength.
Paul wrote, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). The devil knows that if he can convince us to do good works in our own strength rather than through the power of the Holy Spirit, he has placed our feet on the road to ruin. Rather than relying on ourselves, we should be running to Lord daily for a renewal of our strength.
We need to regularly go to God and spend time in His Word, looking to Him to renew our strength.
"And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:11
One of the most famous and successful con artists in recent times was a man named Frank Abagnale. He passed himself off as an airline pilot, a medical doctor, an attorney, and a government agent. He twice managed to escape from custody—before he turned twenty-one. Pan Am Airlines estimated that he flew over one million miles for free by posing as one of their pilots. When he was finally caught and sent to prison, Abagnale decided to change his ways. He began as an unpaid advisor to government agents fighting con artists. Eventually, he established a security company helping companies guard against the tactics he had once used. The goal and purpose of his life had completely changed.
The moment that we are saved, God begins a process of transforming us into the likeness of Christ. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Even those who grew up in Christian homes and were saved at a young age before being exposed to much of the world need this transformation, for we are all born with a sinful nature.
God’s purpose for us is that the old things will be left behind and we become witnesses of the power of His grace. Paul wrote, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We should live focused on the eternal and invite others to join us on the way to Heaven.
God does not save us just to take us to Heaven, but also to transform us to live for Him here on Earth.
"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:57-58
Long before the invention of radio, television, the Internet, and the rise of our all-encompassing media culture, a British essayist named Walter Savage Landor wrote, “When little men cast long shadows, it is a sign that the sun is setting.” In an age when fame and notoriety have replaced accomplishment as the fastest way to become viewed as someone of importance, we should never forget that our work is not about the temporal and fleeting values of our culture but about the eternal impact of our labor for the Lord.
If we evaluate ourselves by the world’s standards, we are going to be dissatisfied with the results. Not every faithful servant of God receives acclaim and the notice of others. In fact, many Christians live in obedience to God without ever coming to public attention. They are faithful to their families and to their churches, they treat others with love and share the Gospel with them, and they do their best to order their lives by God’s Word. Yet their names are never splashed across news headlines, and they never receive the accolades and praise doled out to the latest celebrity.
While the world may regard such people as failures, God most certainly does not. He is looking for people who will be faithful and consistent without regard to whether or not they are receiving praise and attention. The knowledge that our work for God—the normal, hard, everyday work of life—is not in vain allows us to continue on faithfully. And as we do, we know that one day He will say, “Well done.”
You do not need the applause of men but instead the approval of God to make your life worthwhile.
"For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries."
1 Corinthians 16:7-9
When he was appointed as the pastor a church in Cambridge, England, in 1783 Charles Simeon was delighted. The people of the church did not share his joy. Many of the prominent members of the church opposed his convictions on reaching the lost with the gospel. To show their displeasure they locked their pew boxes during the service and left them empty so that those who came to hear Simeon preach had to stand or sit in the aisles. Eventually God began to work, and Simeon’s ministry had a powerful influence on the nation of England and the world through his efforts to encourage missionary work.
During the dark days of opposition Simeon wrote: “In this state of things I saw no remedy but faith and patience. . . . It was painful indeed to see the church, with the exception of the aisles, almost forsaken; but I thought that if God would only give a double blessing to the congregation that did attend, there would on the whole be as much good done as if the congregation were doubled and the blessing limited to only half the amount. This comforted me many, many times, when without such a reflection, I should have sunk under my burden.”
Opposition does not mean that we are doing things wrong—often it is evidence that we are doing things right. If we allow ourselves to be deterred from doing anything unless we have complete approval, it is certain that we will never accomplish anything of value. Rather than being discouraged by opposition, we should take comfort in God’s faithfulness and keep on doing what is right.
Be strong in the Lord; no great work for God has ever been done without opposition from the enemy.
"Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
1 Corinthians 10:10-12
We must never forget that we have an enemy whose purpose is to destroy us and render us ineffective in God’s service. One of the most dangerous weapons in his arsenal is pride. When we become proud we let our guard down, thinking that we are not at risk—and in that moment the devil strikes. Many men and women who served God for years and accomplished much for Him have fallen prey to the snare of pride.
Winston Churchill knew the importance of guarding against pride in light of his prominent position and many accomplishments. He was once asked, "Doesn't it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?" "It's quite flattering," replied Churchill. "But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big."
God has given us every talent and ability we have. His Spirit empowers us to work for Him. We have nothing of which to be proud. Paul reminds us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since we have nothing that God has not given us, we have no basis for pride. Yet it is easy for us to look around and declare ourselves the architects of our lives—and thus allow the devil a devastating means of attack.
Do not allow pride to lure you into a false sense of security—keep your guard up so that you will not be destroyed by the devil.
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Dr. Horatius Bonar—the gifted Scottish pastor and hymn writer of the 1800s—said that it was possible to tell when a Christian was growing in grace: “In proportion to his growth in grace he would elevate his Master, talk less of what he was doing, and become smaller and smaller in his own esteem, until, like the morning star, he faded away before the rising sun. Jonathan was willing to decrease, that David might increase; and John the Baptist showed the same spirit of humility.”
Spiritual warfare is a daily reality of our lives. Paul instructed Timothy about the necessity of fighting to gain the victory. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Our triumph over the enemy requires the use of the right kind of weapons. And the successful use of spiritual weapons requires humility and obedience. Pride keeps us from receiving the blessing and power of God. If we insist on fighting in our own strength, we are certain to fail.
The beginning of humility is found in our thoughts. If they are captive to Christ, pride has no place to grow and develop in our hearts. Paul wrote, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Right thinking—keeping Christ in His proper position of preeminence—is essential to right living.
Victory in spiritual warfare begins when we walk daily in obedience to Christ in our thoughts.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We've all heard the phrase “Going through the motions.” It refers to someone who is doing the right thing without having his heart in it. While the actions may appear to be to right on the outside, there is something missing. Lehman Strauss said it this way: “A wife or husband may remain faithful and may give evidence of careful attention in matters pertaining to each other, and yet there may be a decline in first love. Similarly, a church member may be very regular in his attendance at the services, but no amount of activity, however intense, can compensate for a lack of love.”
Like a tall tree that appears to be strong but has been destroyed from within by insects much eventually fall, many people seem to suddenly turn away from God and go into sin. In fact it is not sudden at all, but instead the result of a long process that begins when the heart turns away from God. Jehu started out as a good king, bringing God's vengeance on the house of Ahab. But it was not long until he turned aside. “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10:31). Nothing we do will matter if our hearts are not right.
Right actions follow right love—so make sure your heart is in the right place.
"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Romans 12:9-10, 17-18
Abraham Lincoln won the presidency of a divided country. There were four major candidates in 1860, and Lincoln only narrowly received his electoral majority. Among his harshest critics was Edwin Stanton of Ohio who opposed Lincoln's election, calling him among other things the “original gorilla.” Yet Lincoln asked Stanton to serve as Secretary of War, recognizing his organizational skills were greatly needed for the war effort. When Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton said, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”
We do not have to strike back at everyone who says or does something with which we disagree. It may be temporarily satisfying, but in the end it leads to bitterness and often an escalating cycle of revenge and retaliatory actions. Love does not insist on getting even—in fact it glories in peace. Paul wrote that love “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Many people find themselves living stress-filled lives because they do not allow love to do its work of peace.
There will always be disappointments and disagreements in life. Even the people we are closest to are not perfect and will fail us—just as we will fail them. The choice is whether in love we choose to overlook those faults or whether we allow anger to rule our hearts and insist on getting even. No one who takes that path will find rest and peace. It is guaranteed to produce resentment and bitterness.
Let love overrule your desire to take vengeance, and you will lead a much more peaceful life.
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Though many people think of love first and foremost as an emotion, that is only a small part of what true love is. Real love—the kind described for us in the Bible—is far more about our actions than our emotions. Jesus told the disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). On another occasion addressing a larger crowd He asked this question: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Love is not seen in words but in deeds.
Love in action changes every part of our lives. God's intention is not only that we love Him with all of our hearts (and put that love into action) but that we also be loving to other people, showing them the same love that He has shown toward us. Christianity is not meant to be lived in isolation. Someone said, “God knows that our relationships are more important than our accomplishments, and He challenges us to grow in His love.”
Like oil to a car engine, love keeps things running smoothly between people in personal, work, and church relationships. The characteristics of love are the traits that make it possible for us to get along with others in a fallen world. Love does not remove the annoying and irritating traits from others, but it changes our focus. When we care for them, as we should, we do not keep our attention on the negative. Instead we look for things to praise and encourage, and patiently build relationships that will stand the test of time.
When love governs our relationships, they will be filled with kindness and grace.
“Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.”
2 Samuel 9:6-7
The relationship between David and Jonathan is a wonderful example of the power of friendship. But that relationship was cut short when the Philistines killed Jonathan, along with Saul. After David became king in place of Saul, he sought for a way to demonstrate his continuing love for Jonathan. It was the custom of that day for a new king to have all the members of the former king's family killed so there would be no dispute over his claim to the throne. Yet instead of carrying out that tradition, David sought out Jonathan's son Mephibosheth and put him in a place of honor in the palace. His love endured even past the death of his friend.
True love does not come and go, or fade away with the passage of time. Instead it endures and grows stronger. Paul wrote, “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8). In a world of shallow substitutes for real love it is more important than ever that believers demonstrate godly love in our daily lives. When we allow little matters (or even major ones) to destroy our love, we are not loving the way God does. If His love were based on our conduct in any way, we would have no hope. Instead God's love is based on His nature and character—a nature that He has given to us as His children. This is the kind of love that our world urgently needs to see.
When we love others the way God loves us that love will never fail.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
If you go to downtown Los Angeles, you might meet a man I came across one time when I was there. His delusion was immediately apparent when I spoke to him and he told me that he was Elvis Presley. He wasn’t joking—he sincerely believed it. His belief dictated his behavior and the way he viewed the world. Of course he wasn’t really Elvis, but he was trying to live as if he were. The same thing can happen in the church as well. Jesus warned that not all those who profess to be Christians actually are.
We should not live in doubt and fear regarding our salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that those who are saved can never lose their salvation. At the same time, the reality is that there are some who have declared their faith who have never been saved. Paul admonished the members of the church at Corinth in this matter. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and hearts will produce fruit. We can grieve the Spirit and hinder His work, but if our faith is real—if we have truly been converted—there will be demonstrable evidence to that fact. Simply saying that we have faith is not enough. James issues this clear warning: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).
Examine your life to make certain that your life is bearing fruit and giving witness to the fact that you possess a true and living faith.
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:”
2 Corinthians 9:6–8
Paul Harvey was a widely popular radio host for many years. He often would include humorous true stories that illustrated human behavior including this one: “The Butterball Turkey Company set up a telephone hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for twenty-three years. That’s right—twenty-three years. The Butterball representative told her the turkey would probably be safe to eat if the freezer had been kept below zero for the entire twenty-three years. But the Butterball representative warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would probably have deteriorated to such a degree that she would not recommend eating it. The caller replied, ‘That’s what I thought. We’ll give the turkey to our church.’”
There are few topics that create more discussion and opposition than teaching on giving. Yet even though saying what God says may be unpopular, it is still right. Though there are many reasons that people are reluctant to give, many of them can be traced to a lack of faith. When we do not truly believe God’s promises to provide for our needs, it is easy for us to fall into the trap of hoarding everything we have. Faith gives generously because it believes that the law of sowing and reaping will create a return on what is given that far outweighs what would come from keeping.
If you trust God to keep His promises there is no reason not to give generously as He commands.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
This world is not the end; eternity awaits. Yet many people, even some who are Christians, are living as if this life is all that matters. Rather than doing something great for God that will last into eternity, they focus on gathering possessions, enjoying temporary pleasures, and increasing their status—things that one day will vanish without a trace. The great missionary David Livingstone said, “I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.”
Though we do not know the day or the hour, we do know that the Lord is going to return. Whether our lives end before that moment, or we are still alive when that day comes, in that instant our eternity will begin. The works that we have done will be assessed by Jesus Himself. Paul wrote, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13). Our hope of receiving crowns in the day of judgment depends on living with an eye on eternity. Only then will our priorities be such that they will produce lasting works.
The hope of eternity should help us remain focused on what matters most.
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
1 Corinthians 15:17–20
The truth of the resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith. If the resurrection of Christ is not a reality, we have no hope for this life or the next. Because Jesus died and rose again, we have an unshakeable hope for the future. He promised, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Our divine Lord went to the undiscovered country, and He returned. He said that at the third day He would be back again, and He was true to His word. There is no doubt that there is another state for human life, for Jesus has been in it, and has come back from it. We have no doubt as to a future existence, for Jesus existed after death. We have no doubt as to a paradise of future bliss, for Jesus went to it and returned. His return from among the dead is a pledge to us of existence after death, and we rejoice in it.”
One of the great needs people have today is hope. We live in a world groaning under the curse of sin. It is filled with hardship, death, pain, suffering, and evil. Our faith, based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, does not insulate us from the suffering around us; instead it gives us the wonderful and certain hope that God will triumph and that we will enjoy eternity in Heaven with Him.
Rejoice in the hope that the resurrection gives us both for today and for eternity.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9–10
We tend to think of the Apostle Paul as a giant of the faith because of all that he accomplished in his work for the Lord. While that is true, it is only part of the story. There are many times when Paul preached with little noticeable results—or when the only result was an attempt to kill him. Some of the churches he started, like the church at Corinth, had major issues. Some of his coworkers abandoned him when things got tough, like John Mark and Demas. Paul’s success in his work for God was not because he never failed. He was a success because he never quit.
Whether he was seeing people come to Christ or fleeing town ahead of the people trying to kill him, Paul had confidence in his hope that God would bless the work. When things looked abysmal he rejoiced, because he knew that God’s power could be better demonstrated then. Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
If we lose the hope of the harvest, we may fail to see it. Our faith in the promises of God enables us to maintain our hope even when things seem to be at their worst. We can rely on His faithfulness to ensure that His Word will always produce a result if we do not faint.
Even if you do not see results immediately, never lose hope that God will provide the harvest He has promised.
“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 15:57–58
In the Second World War a young soldier named David Webster joined the famous Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division. His unit would fight in some of the most fierce battles of the war and suffer heavy casualties. At one point, Webster wrote to his mother: “Stop worrying about me. I joined the parachutists to fight. I intend to fight. If necessary, I shall die fighting, but don’t worry about this because no war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice.”
Webster realized that the cause for which he was fighting was worth sacrificing for. He returned home after the war and became a reporter before writing a memoir of his wartime experiences. He did what he did because he had the hope that it would be worth it. God has called us to do His work, and when we are faithful to Him, He will produce the results. Paul wrote, “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Not every person I share the gospel with accepts Christ as Saviour, but I keep witnessing. Not every person who joins our church continues to grow in grace, but we keep preaching and teaching the Word. Not every family sees their children turn out right, but we keep instructing in parenting. Even when things do not go the way that we think they should, God is in control, and the harvest is His responsibility. Because of His promise, we always have hope that our work for Him will produce results.
No effort that you make for the Lord’s Kingdom is wasted—because He has promised to give the harvest.
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:8–10
Before Adoniram Judson left America for the mission field, he wrote to ask Mr. Hasseltine of Bradford, Massachusetts, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Judson asked: “Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
Adoniram Judson and Ann Hasseltine were married and sailed almost immediately toward Burma. For the next fourteen years they labored under incredible hardship. It was seven years before their first convert was baptized. Ann died on the mission field, but she lived a life that made an eternal difference, and helped bring the gospel to an entire nation. The Judsons’ lives are a powerful illustration of what Paul wrote: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Most of us are not called on to make such extreme sacrifices, but even so, we can have hope in the suffering we do face. We know that today’s suffering will seem as nothing compared to the blessings we will reap through all eternity.
Even through suffering, we can serve God faithfully and fruitfully, confident in the joyous hope that waits for us in eternity.
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
2 Corinthians 4:8–10
In October of 1941, during the dark days of World War II, Winston Churchill went to speak at the Harrow School, where he had attended as a boy. To the assembled students he spoke of the challenges that England faced and the challenges they would face in their lives. He offered them this guidance: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
All of us face challenges and difficulties. The secret of successful people in any field is not the absence of problems but the presence of courage and hope to overcome them. Those who lose hope are already almost defeated. Paul wrote, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). One of the tactics Satan uses very effectively is to tell us the lie that because the harvest has not yet come, it is not coming at all.
God’s Word paints a different picture—the harvest comes “in due season.” Remembering this truth gives us the hope to overcome obstacles in the process leading to the harvest. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “The test of your character is what it takes to stop you.” Difficulty and even temporary defeat are not the end unless we allow them to be. Rather than looking at our problems, we should look to Christ in hope and follow the example He set for us of enduring to win the victory.
If you allow your circumstances to make you lose hope, you will never see the triumphs God wants you to enjoy.
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”
2 Peter 3:11–12
One of the topics of Bible teaching that always seems to attract attention is prophecy. People want to know what to expect in the future. There is a natural fascination with looking ahead. Yet what we read in the pages of Scripture paints a very grim picture of the end of days. In his vision of the future given to him on the Isle of Patmos, John saw a day when the strong men and leaders of the earth would try to seek refuge: “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16).
The future for those who do not know Christ as Saviour is dark. However for those of us who are saved, it is filled with promises of hope and peace. We do not need to fear the end of the world. That knowledge should be a source of comfort, but it should also be an inspiration for us to take the gospel to those who have never heard. Every individual will one day stand before God in a judgment—either the judgment for the saved or the judgment for the lost.
As those who know the salvation of God, we should be witnesses to others. Paul wrote of this responsibility: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Having trusted Christ as Saviour, we have the privileged responsibility to tell others of the salvation available through Christ.
“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
1 Corinthians 4:6–7
Though he came from very humble beginnings, Abraham Lincoln worked diligently to better his life. Largely a self-taught man, Lincoln found great success as an attorney, particularly in the then-new field of railroad law, before his political rise to prominence. Even after he ascended to the highest office in the land, Lincoln maintained a healthy sense of humility. He was quite fond of the poem by Scottish poet William Knox that included these words:
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-flitting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passes from life to his rest in the grave.
Our culture encourages boastful behavior. The bright spotlight of fame seems to follow those who are the most skilled at promoting their latest example of foolish and sinful living. Getting noticed and known has been an end to be pursued, not through accomplishment, but through self-promotion. At the root of this behavior is the sin of pride. Yet nothing we have done or accomplished merits such an attitude. James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). As the provider of everything we use to produce all of our accomplishments, God is the one who deserves all of the praise and honor for everything we do.
Since every good thing we have comes from God, we have no legitimate basis for boastful pride.
“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 3:9–11
On December 22, 2001, an Islamic terrorist named Richard Reid boarded American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami. Reid, who was born in England had converted to Islam while in prison for theft, had traveled to both Pakistan and Afghanistan where he received training and explosives, which were hidden in the hollowed out soles of a pair of shoes. The plan was to bring down a trans-Atlantic flight with nearly two hundred people on board by exploding the shoes and depressurizing the airplane.
After a passenger smelled smoke (Reid was attempting to light the fuse to the bomb with a match) two flight attendants and a number of passengers swarmed Reid (who at six feet four inches tall weighed over two hundred pounds) and restrained him. When the plane landed safely, Reid was taken into custody. It would have been difficult for one or two attendants or passengers to have stopped him, but by working together, they succeeded and their lives were spared.
At one point Jesus commissioned a group of seventy men and sent them out to begin preaching and ministering on their own to prepare for His arrival. But He did not send them individually. “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (Luke 10:1). While there may be times when we must take a stand in isolation, God’s design is for His children to work together to fulfill His calling.
The only way we can accomplish all that God means for us to do is to be willing to work together to get the job done.
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.”
1 Corinthians 4:1–3
The word steward comes from the Old English stigweard—the person responsible for household affairs. It speaks of one who is responsible to another to care for their belongings. God calls us to be faithful servants. Matthew Henry said, “Faithfulness in a servant lies in the ready, punctual, and thorough execution of his master’s orders; keeping his secrets and counsels, dispatching his affairs, and managing with frugality, and to as much just advantage for his master as he is able; looking well to his trusts, and preventing, as far as he can, all spoil, or loss, or damage.”
The belongings and possessions that consume the lives of so many people in our world today are never really ours in the first place. Everything belongs to God by His right as Creator. David wrote, “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:1–2). Since all “our” things belong to God, we should regard their use as primarily for His purposes rather than for our own.
Though God certainly provides many blessings for His children—including material blessings, and He means for us to enjoy them—He does not intend for us to regard them as our own. This is where the principle of stewardship comes in. When we use our resources wisely and well we glorify God and receive His approval for being faithful.
Knowing that everything we have belongs to God, we should exercise care to faithfully use what He has entrusted to us.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Paul knew what it meant to suffer for the cause of Christ. It was a rare town where his preaching didn’t stir opposition or result in death threats. He was well known for the power and effectiveness of his ministry. Paul even had a group of opponents who would travel to other towns to find him and oppose his work. He often suffered physically—beatings, stoning, shipwreck, and being cast into prison. Yet through all of that, Paul never stopped serving Christ. The sufferings did not stop him because of God’s grace.
Speaking of his thorn in the flesh, which God did not remove despite his repeated requests, Paul wrote, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God often uses times of trouble and difficulty even in the midst of our service to Him to teach us about His grace.
Andrew Murray wrote, “In trial and weakness and trouble, He seeks to bring us low, until we learn that His grace is all, and to take pleasure in the very thing that brings us and keeps us low. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His presence filling and satisfying our emptiness, becomes the secret of humility that need never fail.” Resting in God’s grace we will persevere to reach the glory He has prepared for us.
Even when our serving produces suffering, God’s grace is sufficient to keep us going until we see His glory.
“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:13–15
Charles Spurgeon said, “As the smiling flowers gratefully reflect in their lovely colours the various constituents of the solar ray, so should gratitude spring up in our hearts after the smiles of God’s providence. Unto Thee do we give thanks. We should praise God again and again. Stinted gratitude is ingratitude. For infinite goodness there should be measureless thanks.”
An ungrateful Christian is a disobedient Christian. Yet this is a very real danger that we face. Out of His grace God gives us so many things we do not deserve, and yet we often take them for granted rather than having hearts that overflow with thanksgiving. David knew this danger, and he warned: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). If we forget what God has done for us, our hearts will seek other idols to put in His place.
Even when we do not have everything we want, we should stop and realize that everything we have is more than we deserve, and it is only because of God’s love for us that we have the many blessings we enjoy. It is the height of folly to be ungrateful, and it steals from God the glory that is rightfully His. The Bible often tells us that we are to glorify God, and one of the chief ways in which we do that is by sharing with others our praise and thanks for what He has done for us.
Since nothing we have is because our goodness or merit, we should constantly give thanks for God’s great grace.
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:”
2 Corinthians 9:6–8
I read about a lawyer who lived in a small town and was the only attorney there who practiced probate law. As a result, he drew up wills for almost everyone in town. One day the richest man in the area passed away. There was a great deal of speculation as to the value of his estate. One man decided to go to the source and find out. “I suppose you did the will for the deceased,” he said. “Yes,” the lawyer relied. “Then you know how much he left. Now that he is dead will you tell me?” “I will,” the lawyer said. “He left it all.”
None of us are going to take anything with us when we leave this life. When Job lost all of his possessions in a single day, he recognized this truth: “And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Given the fleeting value of material possessions and money, they should not consume our lives. Instead we should focus on what really matters and what will last. While we cannot take anything with us, we can send our treasure ahead. Jesus said, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:20).
When God’s grace is allowed to work in our hearts, we will not find it difficult to be generous in our giving.
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16–18
I read about a father and son who went to the store together. A lady watched as they made their way down the aisles. The little boy was carrying a shopping basket, and from time to they would place another item in it. As she watched the basket filling up, the lady decided to say something. “Isn’t that a heavy load for a young fellow like you?” The little boy replied, “That’s okay. My father knows how much I can carry.”
God does not promise us a soft and easy passage through life. He does not guarantee that we will receive what we think we should. He does not guarantee freedom from trouble and pain. Instead God guarantees us His grace. This is the power that renews our strength and allows us to go regardless of the circumstances we face. If Paul had quit his ministry because of the repeated suffering, abuse, and imprisonment, it would have been understandable—but it would have been a tragedy.
Instead Paul relied on God’s grace to sustain him through the trials and continued to faithfully preach and teach the Word. Churches were started across the Roman Empire, pastors and leaders were trained, and the very course of history was changed because Paul did not quit. No matter what we face, it is possible for us to live powerful and productive Christian lives in victory because of the grace of God.
God’s grace is all that you need for whatever challenges and trials you face today.
“I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
2 Corinthians 2:8–9
I read a story that on the evening before the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon had ordered sentries to be posted to watch for signs that the German and British forces were trying to unite against him. On the cold and rainy night a corporal of the Old Guard was posted near a corn field. Through the long night he marched back and forth, seeing nothing. Finally the exhausted man laid down on a corn sheaf to rest. That night, Napoleon, unable to sleep, decided to check the sentries. When he came to cornfield, he found the guard sleeping.
Without a word, Napoleon picked up the man’s gun and stood at his post. After a while the soldier awoke. Startled, he found the emperor standing guard. Realizing that his life would be forfeited because of his dereliction of duty, he knelt to receive his punishment. According to the story, Napoleon looked at him and said, “I have stood your watch. Your life is spared. Resume your post.” There was a reason Napoleon’s men were so loyal to him!
All of us were under a completely justified sentence of death. We had no hope of escape until Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. His death, burial, and resurrection in our place purchased our salvation at great cost. We have no excuse for not living a life that is filled with gratitude and service in light of the great gift we have received. It is an insult to the grace of God for us to live thankless lives.
The realization that our sin necessitated the death of Christ in our place should make us appreciate our salvation even more.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:55–57
During the Civil War, D. L. Moody was noted for his evangelistic efforts. He told of visiting a dying soldier in the hospital after the Battle of Murfreesboro. “One night after midnight, I was woke up and was told that there was a man in one of the wards who wanted to see me. He said he wanted me to help him die. And I said, ‘I’d take you right up in my arms and carry you into the kingdom of God if I could; but I can’t do it; I can’t help you to die.’ And he said, ‘Who can?’ I said: ‘The Lord Jesus Christ can—He came for that purpose.’ He shook his head and said, ‘He can’t save me; I have sinned all my life.’ And I said, ‘But He came to save sinners.’” Moody read John 3 and the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus to the dying man. Moody went on, “When I finished, his eyes were closed, his hands were folded, and there was a smile on his face. Oh! how it was lit up! What a change had come over it!” In just a few minutes the young soldier was in Heaven.
Unless the Lord returns first, all of us will face death. Though that moment may be painful, it is nothing but a doorway to eternity with the God who loved and saved us. We can face the end of our lives with confidence because Jesus has already defeated death. He has provided not only for our lives here on Earth, but for the future—everything we need is already ours, and we have nothing to fear.
Death holds no terror for a Christian who is certain of salvation through the finished work of Christ.
“For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?”
1 Corinthians 14:14–16
Our prayers are not offered in a vacuum. They are meant to be guided and bounded by the Word of God. We are not free to pray outside the revealed will of God for things that are not part of His plan for our lives.
The only way that we can pray as we should is to pray with an understanding of what God has told us in the Bible. That means that we need to be careful students of the Scriptures. Reading, memorizing, and meditating (thinking) on the Bible should be part of our daily lives.
The more time we spend allowing what God says to fill our thoughts and minds, the more in tune with Him our prayers will be. This is the kind of praying that brings results. Because it is in tune with the will of God, this kind of praying receives powerful answers. This is the kind of praying we need in this day.
The only way we can pray with knowledge of God’s will is if our minds are filled with the Word of God.
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
2 Corinthians 8:1–4
The church at Ephesus was one of the strongest and most fruitful of all the churches Paul established. He spent a great deal of time with them and did his best to instruct them in all that God wanted them to know. On his way back to Jerusalem for the final time, Paul met with the leaders of this great church for a last time of instruction. During that meeting Paul said, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
The things that we have are not really ours. We hold them as stewards—it all belongs to God. Yet too often we become so attached to our money and possessions that they become more important to us than they should be. Instead of focusing on the eternal, we become obsessed with the temporal. There are many problems with this approach, but often overlooked is that when we are materialistic and unwilling to give, we lose out on the joy that can only be found in using our resources to help others. There is great joy in knowing that we are being part of God’s work and helping to meet the needs of others.
When we regard giving as a joy and privilege, we are looking at our resources the way God means for us to view them.
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:18–20
Those of us who are saved have been given an amazing gift through God’s grace. But we have been given another gift as well—the joy of sharing the gospel with others. What an honor it is to be ambassadors for the Lord of Heaven! We have the opportunity to invite men and women into His family! We should view soulwinning as a great privilege rather than as an obligation. We should joyfully share the gospel with everyone we meet. We should rejoice in the salvation we have received and in turn take the same hope of eternal life to others.
David Livingstone said, “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life—these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice.”
If we rightly appreciate the great gift of our own salvation, we will be motivated to share the Good News with others.
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”
2 Corinthians 6:1–2
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the USA Today newspaper conducted extensive surveys of those who had been in the World Trade Center towers when the airplanes struck the buildings. In addition, they interviewed family members of people who died in the attack. After more than three hundred interviews, they concluded that the people who survived were the ones who immediately fled the buildings. Many of those who waited to see what was happening perished. The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. Every person to whom we present the gospel has an appointment with eternity and we do not know when that moment will come.
There are some people we will witness to this week who will never again after our meeting have an opportunity to accept Christ as Saviour. This sobering reality should add urgency to our witnessing. A person who rejects the gospel is making a crucial decision with eternal consequences. We should never lose sight of what is at stake. In his final meetings with the leaders of the church at Ephesus, Paul reminded them of the intensity and fervor of his soulwinning efforts in their city. “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). We need to take full advantage of each open door to present the gospel to the lost, and we need to do so with a serious purpose and a fervent and compassionate spirit.
Realizing the brevity and uncertainty of life should encourage us to present the gospel with fervor and zeal.
“I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
1 Corinthians 3:6–9
Every faithful soulwinner knows what it is like to go home empty handed. We knock on doors without them being opened. We miss contacts and connections with people for whom we have been praying. We present the gospel to someone who seems to be interested, but then decides not to make a decision. We run into a scoffer who ridicules what we are doing. Those are discouraging days. No matter how many years you have been witnessing, the devil will come on those days and tell you that your efforts are in vain and not worth making.
That is a lie! If you allow yourself to believe that a lack of immediate results is an indictment of the method God has given us in His Word to reach the world, you will give up on soulwinning. There are many churches that have abandoned the Bible and gone in a search for something new. But God’s plan has not changed. He still means for us to witness to the lost. We are to go to their homes, talk to them on the job, and use every means available to reach people.
After he was defeated in his presidential re-election bid, John Quincy Adams was elected to the House of Representatives where he labored to end slavery. Though he saw no fruit from his efforts during his lifetime, Adams often told his friend, “Duties are ours. Results are God’s.” The same holds true for the soulwinner.
Do not be discouraged by a lack of immediate results—keep sowing the seed and trusting God for the harvest.
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”
2 Corinthians 5:9–11
Before he died in January of 1956, Jim Elliot was virtually unknown. But the circumstances of his death, being martyred along with four other missionaries while working to reach tribes deep in the jungles of Ecuador, quickly made him a household name. Elliot was deeply committed to the cause of reaching people with the gospel. In his journal he wrote, “Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to a decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” Though the missionaries could have defended themselves with their guns, they chose to lay down their lives. In the following years, other missionaries, including the wives of some of those men, did reach the local people with the gospel and many were saved.
There is a level of commitment and intensity that characterizes fruitful soulwinners. They do not approach the task of sharing the gospel with a casual attitude, but with a recognition of the seriousness of the cause. Not only is the eternal destiny of those to whom we witness at stake, but we will also face a day at the judgment seat of Christ when we will give an account of our faithfulness to proclaim the gospel. Jim Elliot also said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Knowing that we will give an account to God should inspire us to be faithful to witness.
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
2 Corinthians 4:1–4
Born in a small village near Paris in 1809, Louis Braille loved to play in his father’s leather working shop. An accident with an awl when he was just three, and a subsequent infection left Braille completely blind by the time he was five. Sent to Paris to attend one of the few schools in the world for blind children, Louis Braille found the system for reading for the blind to be extremely difficult, and the system for writing almost non-existent. By the time he was fifteen, the brilliant young man had adapted a French military code into what we now call the Braille alphabet which blind people could read and write. For the first time, doors of opportunity and understanding were opened to those who could not see.
The Bible often describes the condition of the lost with the metaphor of blindness. A person who is blind needs help from someone else in order to find his way. He is not capable of discerning his surroundings and circumstances. The major difference between physical blindness and spiritual blindness is awareness—a blind man knows he cannot see, but often a lost man does not realize the true state of his soul. The work of the soulwinner is to bring the light and hope of the gospel to the lost.
By taking the gospel to the lost we defeat Satan’s plan to keep them bound in darkness and blindness.
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
2 Corinthians 4:5–7
We live in a self-focused world. Most people, sadly even most Christians, care more about their own desires and satisfaction than they do for what God wants and expects. That of course is a problem in any area of life, but there is a particular impact on our soulwinning. The devil will use any technique to get us off track. If he cannot get us to do wrong, he will try to get us to do right, but with the wrong motives or methods. This was the temptation he used to draw the Pharisees away. They were quite devout outwardly, but their motivation was to receive praise and attention from men.
Jesus said, “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:2). If we are participating in soulwinning outreaches to be noticed by others, we are going to be ineffective and lacking in God’s power.
We are not the message but the messengers, and the messengers are not the stars of the show. Paul said, “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). We should have our focus on Jesus and remember that the purpose of everything we do, including our witnessing, is to bring honor and glory to Him.
When the focus of our lives is Jesus Christ, we will find we effectively communicate the gospel to others.